This year we reach the ripe old age of 130. To prepare for our celebrations we thought it would only be fitting to have a little look through our archive and rediscover some of the most interesting pieces that make up our history. As we delved deeper into the archive (we like to do that), one of the things we came across was this fine example of hand-engraved stationery from the 1890s. This stationery, white with intricate gold engraving, was used by Her Majesty Queen Victoria to send correspondence from each of her Royal residences—Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, Osborne House, Marlborough House and Balmoral.
This discovery got us to thinking whether it would be possible to re-create this stationery today, using our original methods of engraving and die stamping. We like a challenge, so decided to give it a go…
The first step when reproducing the stationery is to re-create the artwork. One of our artworkers scans and carefully traces each design, ready to be etched onto a copper plate (or a die in technical terms) which will be used in the printing process. This is the same process that we use to create all of our bespoke stationery.
George, one of the stampers at our factory is responsible for printing all of the replica stationery on one of our original presses, which date back to the 1970s. Before printing can commence, George has to create something known as a makeready. He places a counter of cardboard, which is then die-stamped and cut by hand.
This is placed under the die reduce the aggressive bruising to the paper when it’s run through the press—clever right?
The stationery is now ready to be printed. The ink is applied to the die via an ink roller and wiped off the surface of the die allowing ink remains in the engraved area. For this process, we used our White Wove paper with gold ink.
Each sheet of paper is hand-fed into our presses, stamped and removed ready to be burnished.
When working with metallic inks, you can really make them shine by using copper to burnish each sheet after the initial printing. A soft copper foil is placed in the press, and each engraved piece is re-stamped (burnished) using the copper foil which gives the engraving definition and an added shine. In this instance, it made the stationery feel especially regal.
Each design is then printed, and boxed and tied with a Smythson bow. What do you think of the finished product?
If you’d like to learn more about the Smythson craft and watch artisans at work, then do make sure you visit our Bond Street boutique between the 4th and the 7th of May for our exhibition as part of London Craft Week.
For four days, artisans and craftspeople from Smythson and the Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust (QEST) will demonstrate how traditional craftsmanship is still relevant today, celebrating a variety of disciplines across leather, stationery, books and diaries. The exhibition transports visitors into Frank Smythson’s workshop and allows guests to discover never before seen pieces from Smythson’s 130-year-old archive.